Chitose Agriculture | A Thousand Years of Sustainable Farming

Chitose Agriculture - Sustainable Farming the Japanese Way
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Food sustainability is a current big concern in Singapore. Emphatically highlighted by the supply chain disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for our bustling city-state to safeguard and stabilise our food supply chains have never been greater. Since 2020, we have continued to be distressed by supply shocks such as the ongoing Red Sea Crisis.

Strengthening food security in Singapore is no easy task, though, as we all know. The country can barely spare any land for farming. Whatever land that we do use for agricultural purposes must be managed in sustainable ways too; no sense in creating other environmental problems just to solve one.

As a vibrant merchant city with a cosmopolitan population, “food” goes beyond just having enough rice, vegetables, or meat for everyone too. By this, I don’t mean Singaporeans need a vast variety of fanciful imported produce for everyday meals, or that we need all sorts of expensive ingredients to maintain our image as a food capital. Whatever we import or grow needs to be healthy. This is especially so with a recent survey by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) warning that obesity has risen, from 10.5 percent to 11.6 percent from 2019 to 2022.

Singapore Food Security
Food security for Singapore involves not just securing food sources but also ensuring what we grow/import are nutritious.

One company that could partner Singapore in its quest for food sustainability is Chitose Agriculture Initiative, a member/subsidiary of CHITOSE Group. For Singaporeans who shop at supermarkets such as Mediya Great World, the brand name “Chitose” is probably already familiar. A substantial variety of premium fruits and vegetables are branded under the group name and sold at these locations.

Their project, Chitose Agriculture, is far more than just being another produce importer, though. Although the produce is cultivated in Malaysia, their farm leverages biotechnology to achieve sustainable farming, beginning with the replacement of chemical pesticides and fertilisers with natural predators and compost recycled from food waste—agricultural methods that Japan has long embraced.

The name of Chitose Agriculture perhaps offers a clearer picture of their mission. In Japanese, Chitose means “thousand years.” This name directly reflects the group’s mission to create sustainable agricultural systems that could last for a thousand years.

Soil, for example, is improved by Chitose Agriculture at their farm to ensure the best harvests, but only through methods that ensure the soil can continue to be used by future generations. What they export to our tables are also fruits and vegetables that taste as they should, and not because they have been chemically enhanced. The latter is, of course, crucial for health. Chitose Agriculture produce is on sale at Mediya Great World, Millenia Walk, and Isetan Scotts.

Chitose Agriculture @ Mediya Great World
Chitose produce on sale at Mediya Great World.
Chitose Strawberries
Chitose strawberries. Sweet, juicy gems grown the sustainable and environmentally responsible way.
Chitose Group Algae Farming
Outside of farming, CHITOSE group leads a consortium that aims to build a new industry based on microalgae, which are potential sources of a wide range of materials including fuels and plastics. The world’s largest* construction of a 5-hectare microalgae production facility was completed and the production of microalgae has been started in Sarawak. (*Scalable flat-panel type photobioreactor system suitable for the efficient production of microalgal biomass.)

Chitose x Cameron Highlands Partnership

Since the mid-2010s, Chitose Agriculture not only developed their own farm, but has actively partnered with farms of Cameron Highlands to grow “Japanese-style” produce such as mizuna, spinach, sweet corn, tomatoes, and strawberries. Incidentally, strawberries are Chitose Agriculture’s most famous produce in Singapore.

The extent of these partnerships varies from farm to farm, from the supplying of seeds and fertiliser blends to full-on consultations to improve methodologies and infrastructure. Regardless of the nature of collaboration, Chitose’s Malaysian projections have direct benefits for the Singaporean market, where part of the produce is sold.

The proximity of the Cameron Highlands to Singapore vastly shortens the delivery process; freshness and logistic costs can be better managed. Having a nearer sustainable food production source strengthens Singapore’s food security too.

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Chitose x Cameron Highlands Produce
“Japan x Cameron Highlands” tomatoes grown under the Chitose partnership.
Chitose Tomatoes
Apart from developing sustainable farming practices, Chitose also curates the best produce for sale at more than 36 retail outlets in Singapore and Malaysia.

More importantly, Chitose’s emphasis on sustainable farming and environmentally conscious cultivation practices could be invaluable in Singapore’s quest to produce 30% of the nation’s nutritional needs locally by 2030. Urban farming and similar terms have been buzzwords here since the turn of the decade, but just how do we manage this in a country where land is so precious and farms are likely to be within walking distance of densely packed homes? Chitose’s biotechnology might provide part of the answer.

For local F&B establishments, the Chitose x Cameron Highlands project is undoubtedly an attractive supply source for quality and tasty produce, ingredients that could be costlier to import from further parts of the world. Since the Cameron Highlands, cool as it is, also enjoys abundant sunshine all year long, certain seasonal fruits could be grown all year long. This circumventing of agricultural cycles will surely be very attractive for some establishments.

Chitose Agriculture Fruits and Vegetables
Quality Japanese produce at competitive prices for Singapore grown just across the causeway.
Chitose Japan x Cameron Highlands Kale
Could Chitose’s biotechnology and beliefs in sustainable farming be invaluable for the development of urban farming in Singapore?

Beautiful and Tasty Japanese Produce at Competitive Prices

I visited Mediya Great World both before and after preparing this write-up. Naturally, I tried some of the produce too.

From an ex-graphic designer’s point of view, I think Chitose’s produce are elegantly and beautifully presented. Branding is simple yet classy. Sifting through the bags of Japanese mizuna and spinach, etc., and cartons of strawberries, I did not notice bruises and rots either.

Surprisingly, all produce weren’t as expensive as I thought they would be either; prices were competitive. I kept forgetting that these were Japanese produce grown regionally and not imported from 3000 miles away.

Appearances are deceptive in the modern food industry, though, I’m sure everyone has experiences with great-looking greens that taste awful, or worse, weird. Well, whatever I tried had a natural freshness and sweetness that were never excessive. A clear broth that I made with Chitose’s Japanese spinach had an earthy goodness that was refreshing. (Comforting, even). Their strawberries are juicy and with just the right blend of sweetness and tanginess.

I simply love their sweet corn and I never knew corn could be so, well, sweet.

Not being a nutritionist, I can’t comment on whether these produce are great for health. That being said, I’m inclined to think that they are. All else aside, you don’t need to add sugar and salt when cooking with Chitose’s vegetables, they are already full of natural taste. Sugar and salt, as we all know, are among the worst culprits when it comes to poor diet.

Coming back to sustainability and food security, I feel Chitose’s beliefs and methods could be valuable for Singapore’s challenges in these areas. If I were to be managing these tasks, if I were a supermarket or restaurant manager, I would be more comfortable with a nearby, sustainably managed food source than importing from afar and not just because of cost.

As a consumer, I’d certainly be curious to see what sort of synergy a Chitose partnership within Singapore could bring.



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Chitose Agriculture | A Thousand Years of Sustainable Farming
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Chitose Agriculture | A Thousand Years of Sustainable Farming
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Together with Southeast Asian farms, Chitose Agriculture leverages biotechnology to achieve sustainable farming, the Japanese way.
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